The National Intelligence Council (NIC) report that was declassified on Wednesday may be most notable because it shows how Trump and his associates were directly accepting disinformation from Russian agents to bolster their attacks on Joe Biden. That included all the claims that Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and others were making about Hunter Biden’s actions in Ukraine. The report shows once again that colluding with Russia is not just something that Trump and other Republicans have done, but something they’ve done eagerly, often seeking out the Russian sources in their efforts to generate propaganda.
As The New York Times reports, what’s obvious after a review of the NIC report is that the intelligence showing Russian interference in the election was clear. It always had been clear. Claims from Barr, O’Brien, and other Trump officials that the intelligence was not clear was itself a form of disinformation.
What was also crystal clear is that the emphasis on the threat from China was intended to distract from the real interference from Russia, tie into lies that Trump repeatedly stated about Hunter Biden making “billions” in China, and reinforce a Republican wall of false claims blaming China for everything from the failure of the U.S. steel industry to America’s COVID-19 response.
In no sense is the authoritarian, one-party government of China “good.” Their actions in controlling Hong Kong, the genocide of the Uighurs, and the ongoing occupation of Tibet are just a small fraction of the reasons why China’s government should be rightfully scorned. The expansion of China’s military capability and rapid growth of cyber capabilities do constitute a genuine threat, especially to other nations in the region. But none of that makes the lies that were told concerning China and the election—or China and the Bidens—any more true.
The efforts that Trump and other Republicans made to misdirect attention to China were extremely helpful to Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was able to run his anti-democratic campaign not only unimpeded, but actively assisted by everyone from Rudy Giuliani to Sen. Ron Johnson, who seemed all too eager to act as Putin’s bag men.
It was clear, even at the time the statements were being made last fall, that the attempts to direct claims of election interference toward China were worse than a smokescreen. As CNN reported at the time, Trump claimed that China was not only trying to interfere in the election, but was secretly funding BLM protests that came in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. Trump’s efforts to treat China as a catch-all for every issue in the nation—including his own greatest failures—is directly connected to the violence against Asian Americans that has been spiking for over a year.
As with everything else, Trump, along with right-wing media, worked to politicize the idea that China was interfering in the election and Russia was not. This included claims that Biden was helping China in these actions, and frequent claims on on Fox, OANN, and talk radio that a vote for Biden was “a vote for China, not the U.S.” All of that was, of course, a lie.
And they knew it. The report that was declassified this week may be new, but none of the information it contains was put together at the last minute. This is a compilation of information that was understood for months. Information that says this:
Key Judgment 4: We assess that China did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the US Presidential election. We have high confidence in this judgment.
Don’t expect that result, or the clear evidence that Russians did interfere with Republican help, to change the way the story is reported on Fox or spewed by Ron Johnson. After all, they knew they were lying when they said it the first time. They’ll have no problem doing more of the same.